The Glass Virus
Joey Zeller
Brief Essays on the Importance of Writing and Interdisplinary Practice in Glass Academia


Although writing is an integral part of academia, it often seems to be lacking in the field of art. It is true that many post-graduate programs often require a writing element as part of the curriculum, but what about those still pursuing undergraduate degrees or those still trying to find their way in their artistic practice? Does the importance and magnitude of writing not hold the same in such arenas of academia? Is the ability of the artist to explain his or her ideas through writing necessarily saved until the post-graduate or professional levels? Writing should be equally as important regardless of what level of academia a person is involved. Writing should be a part of every area of art academia from the under-graduate level all the way up through the professors who are teaching the students.

I strongly believe that writing is a vital component to every artist’s work. Writing allows an artist to explain his or her work, describe what the work is about, extrapolate his or her thoughts and ideas that were involved in creating work, and to present any research or conclusions that were involved in creating the work. Teaching such practices to a younger audience and expressing the importance of writing to the better-acquainted artist does a few things that benefit the artist as an individual and the glass world as a whole.

First and foremost, molding the ability to write along side the ability to create will allow better, more critical writing to be the standard. If an issue in glass pedagogy is the lack of critical writing that exists within the glass world, it makes sense that promoting such practices amongst newcomers in the glass world would be the natural solution to this problem. By showing students the importance of writing in an artistic practice at a younger age, we can expect more advanced writing to come from students who have been involved in writing just as long as they have been involved in art. Integrating such work into the curriculums of glass departments around the world will hopefully create a greater number of seasoned contributors to the conversation in the glass world. Not only does this tactic help promote and spread knowledge amongst the glass world through the sharing of writing, but it also helps to clarify knowledge and concepts within an individual’s own artistic practice.

Just as important as spreading knowledge and concepts throughout the glass world through writing is the ability of one to realize more clearly the goals, intentions, and concepts of his or her artistic practice. One of the easiest and most helpful ways for this to come to fruition is through writing. The ability of one to write ultimately translates to the ability to think critically. As an artist, is this not an extremely vital characteristic to have? Similar to sketching, a standard for the artist, writing provides a means through which ideas can be explored and expanded upon. Writing allows for ideas to become more and more developed and articulated. It allows for the incorporation of research and hard data that may not be as easily explained through the language of sketch. Additionally, it can lead to new ideas and realizations that may not have been there before. Writing, similar to sketching, may reveal complications or simplifications for ideas or projects. It may lead to new ideas and areas of interest. Or, it may simply lead to an explanation of the work and the artist’s thoughts and processes. Regardless of the outcome, writing has the ability to promote knowledge, solidify thought processes, and clarify issues that may come about during artistic creation or during the act of writing itself. Having the recorded experiences and knowledge of artists through their writings will surely help to promote the future of glass art, the art world as a whole, and the propagation of artistic knowledge to future generations.

Interdisciplinary Practice

Interdisciplinary artistic practice, although seeming omnipresent in contemporary art, all too often seems out of place arena of glass education, at least as far as my education and discussions are concerned. In my opinion, this lack of interdisciplinary practice may be part of the reason behind the identity crisis facing many glass artists. If artists used glass outside of the “glass art” realm, perhaps the term “glass artist” would have less of a stigma within the glass community. At least, it would create a definition that is not so tightly bound to the material it is meant to embody. It is true that glass is a very specific medium with very specific ways of working with it, but to expand this knowledge into other fields and other media will not only help promote artistic creation within all fields, but will create a deeper understanding of the material of glass itself.

I strongly think that interdisciplinary studies should be included in the curriculums of glass programs around the world. By allowing students to engage with materials other than glass, their concepts, ideas, ways of working, and means of creating will create a deeper understanding of an individual’s artistic practice as well as knowledge of materials. With such unique properties, I think that it would be extremely helpful for artists to study glass in lieu of other materials that may help promote an idea or concept. To put it another way, relying solely on glass to create a work of art is not always practical or efficient. In my experience, many glass students feel the need to stick to the material, making it the centerpiece for the artwork they create. But on the contrary, glass should just be another means through which artistic conclusion can be reached. It should not be the lone driving force and material for the execution of a concept. Although, it is true that some artists work strictly in this way – working within the conversation of glass about glass, using glass in all of its splendor and glory, but this is a different story. As stated above, interdisciplinary practices are an integral part of contemporary artwork and pushing young artists to pursue such endeavors will help expand their artistic knowledge, create comfort while using other materials, and promote open-minded thinking when coming to conclusions in creating a concept.

In addition to these practical applications to interdisciplinary glass practice, it can also help expand the conceptual field within which artists are working. The unique properties of glass (transparency, light, projection, fragility, heat, liquidity, etc) are all very interesting in and of themselves, whether or not they are being directly related to glass. This being said, exploring such phenomena outside the field of glass will surely help to expand an artist’s knowledge both in and outside the field of glass. These alternate explorations of the properties of glass can lead to new concepts, new ideas, and new ways of using and perceiving the material that we all love – glass.

← Back